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Types of Tennis Strokes

author image Peter Mitchell
Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.
Types of Tennis Strokes
Tennis Photo Credit LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

Tennis comprises three basic strokes with dozens of subtle variations for each. While you can develop your own shot styles and techniques, you do need to master the fundamental strokes. Work at improving as many different types of tennis strokes as possible, and your game will be more versatile, powerful and effective.


You have to serve in every game you play. The serve starts the rally and gives you the opportunity to score without even returning a shot. While serving styles vary a surprising amount between players, in professional games, you see players hit the ball with huge power. In general, serves involve a wide overhead arc with the racket and shifting your weight forward to hit the ball with maximum power. If the ball lands outside the opponent's serving box, it's out. For that reason you should aim for accuracy before power.


Forehand shots make up a large proportion of a tennis player's return shots. A solid forehand produces more power and offers more accuracy than most other types of shot. For this reason, players try to get into the right position for a forehand when the ball comes toward them. A perfect forehand generates momentum and results in a hit at around waist level. The power transfers to the racket in a sequence: from legs to hips to shoulder to arm and out to the wrist.

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Backhand shots involve hitting the ball with your arm swinging across your body. You might be forced into playing backhand by an accurate serve or a player who wants to move you to awkward positions. For added power and control, many players hold the racket with both hands when playing backhand. The BBC notes that most professionals use double-handed backhand strokes. Power shots involve pulling the racket right behind your shoulder and turning your back. Keep your eye on the ball and swing the racket in a sweeping arc so that the head connects with the ball at hip height.

Lobs, Drops and Volleys

The lob can either put the ball beyond a player that's close to the net or buy you time while you regain a strong position. The lob involves hitting the ball high into the air with an angled underhand swing. It takes practice to know how much power to apply. With a drop shot, you need to soften your racket stroke at the last moment to take the power from the ball and make it drop dead just over the net. The volley is tough for amateur players. When volleying, you need to meet the ball in the air before it bounces, something that takes excellent reactions and judgment.


Tennis strokes alter slightly depending on the angle of the racket head, the power applied and the position on the court. For example, if you angle the racket, you can create topspin on the ball. Holding the racket flatter on the backhand creates a backhand slice. which delivers a lower bounce on the ball over the net. Experienced players may also try difficult shots, such as hitting through the legs or attempting an overhead smash.

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